Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey

Authors : Sara Schroter, Jason Roberts, Elizabeth Loder, Donald B Penzien, Sarah Mahadeo, Timothy T Houle

Objective

The extent to which biomedical authors have received training in publication ethics, and their attitudes and opinions about the ethical aspects of specific behaviours, have been understudied. We sought to characterise the knowledge and attitudes of biomedical authors about common issues in publication ethics.

Design

Cross-sectional online survey.

Setting and participants

Corresponding authors of research submissions to 20 journals.

Main outcome measure(s)

Perceived level of unethical behaviour (rated 0 to 10) presented in five vignettes containing key variables that were experimentally manipulated on entry to the survey and perceived level of knowledge of seven ethical topics related to publishing (prior publication, author omission, self-plagiarism, honorary authorship, conflicts of interest, image manipulation and plagiarism).

Results

4043/10 582 (38%) researchers responded. Respondents worked in 100 countries and reported varying levels of publishing experience. 67% (n=2700) had received some publication ethics training from a mentor, 41% (n=1677) a partial course, 28% (n=1130) a full course and 55% (n=2206) an online course; only a small proportion rated training received as excellent.

There was a full range (0 to 10 points) in ratings of the extent of unethical behaviour within each vignette, illustrating a broad range of opinion about the ethical acceptability of the behaviours evaluated, but these opinions were little altered by the context in which it occurred.

Participants reported substantial variability in their perceived knowledge of seven publication ethics topics; one-third perceived their knowledge to be less than ‘some knowledge’ for the sum of the seven ethical topics and only 9% perceived ‘substantial knowledge’ of all topics.

Conclusions

We found a large degree of variability in espoused training and perceived knowledge, and variability in views about how ethical or unethical scenarios were. Ethical standards need to be better articulated and taught to improve consistency of training across institutions and countries.

URL : Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey

DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021282

How to counter undeserving authorship

Authors: Stefan Eriksson, Tove Godskesen, Lars Andersson, Gert Helgesson

The average number of authors listed on contributions to scientific journals has increased considerably over time. While this may be accounted for by the increased complexity of much research and a corresponding need for extended collaboration, several studies suggest that the prevalence of non-deserving authors on research papers is alarming.

In this paper a combined qualitative and quantitative approach is suggested to reduce the number of undeserving authors on academic papers: 1) ask scholars who apply for positions to explain the basics of a random selection of their co-authored papers, and 2) in bibliometric measurements, divide publications and citations by the number of authors.

URL : How to counter undeserving authorship

DOI : http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.395

Improving the Measurement of Scientific Success by Reporting a Self-Citation Index

Authors : JustinW. Flatt, Alessandro Blasimme, Effy Vayena

Who among the many researchers is most likely to usher in a new era of scientific breakthroughs? This question is of critical importance to universities, funding agencies, as well as scientists who must compete under great pressure for limited amounts of research money.

Citations are the current primary means of evaluating one’s scientific productivity and impact, and while often helpful, there is growing concern over the use of excessive self-citations to help build sustainable careers in science.

Incorporating superfluous self-citations in one’s writings requires little effort, receives virtually no penalty, and can boost, albeit artificially, scholarly impact and visibility, which are both necessary for moving up the academic ladder.

Such behavior is likely to increase, given the recent explosive rise in popularity of web-based citation analysis tools (Web of Science, Google Scholar, Scopus, and Altmetric) that rank research performance.

Here, we argue for new metrics centered on transparency to help curb this form of self-promotion that, if left unchecked, can have a negative impact on the scientific workforce, the way that we publish new knowledge, and ultimately the course of scientific advance.

URL : Improving the Measurement of Scientific Success by Reporting a Self-Citation Index

DOI : http://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/5/3/20

The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

Authors : Stefan Eriksson, Gert Helgesson

This paper describes and discusses the phenomenon ‘predatory publishing’, in relation to both academic journals and books, and suggests a list of characteristics by which to identify predatory journals. It also raises the question whether traditional publishing houses have accompanied rogue publishers upon this path.

It is noted that bioethics as a discipline does not stand unaffected by this trend. Towards the end of the paper it is discussed what can and should be done to eliminate or reduce the effects of this development.

The paper concludes that predatory publishing is a growing phenomenon that has the potential to greatly affect both bioethics and science at large.

Publishing papers and books for profit, without any genuine concern for content, but with the pretence of applying authentic academic procedures of critical scrutiny, brings about a worrying erosion of trust in scientific publishing.

URL : The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

DOI :10.1007/s11019-016-9740-3